Autism Reality

National Autism Political Strategy, Dartmouth, May 26, 2007











Yesterday began early up at 5, off to gas up and then on the road to the Dartmouth Holiday Inn to meet the folks from FEAT-BC as part of their national autism strategy tour. Above, the charming ladies at the registration desk got everybody signed in and welcomed. My sister, Belinda Doherty, and Chris (aka Jim aka Bruce ) Armstrong arrive from the Valley. (Annapolis Valley), Shawn Murphy, Senator Jim Munson and Andy Scott exchange pleasantries, Andy and Jean Lewis from FEAT-BC, Denise Cameron Scott TRIES to grab a relaxing moment after a long journey but is bothered by a pesky blogger, Brian Rimpilaenan travelled from Fredericton for the event, and last but far from least, Peter Stoffer, who with Andy Scott in presenting a national autism strategy motion in the House of Commons cleans up on the door prize a beautiful piece of art by a BC First Nations artist.

It was a great day and the message we all shared was crystal clear. It is time for the autism community in Canada to GET POLITICAL. The courts have, as was noted in some of the speeches, washed their hands of Canada’s vulnerable autistic citizens. For autistic children in Canada section 15 has been turned into an empty and hollow promise by the Supreme Court of Canada decisions in Auton and Deskin-Wyneberg. Political solutions are all that is left and political solutions, as past history in BC and Ontario has shown, will not come easy, with politicians, once elected, backtracking on and backing out of their promises. For some unknown reason judges and political leaders both feel free to disregard the compelling realities, needs and challenges of Canada’s autistic children and adults.

But politics remains the only solution and there has been progress, real progress, on the national political scene. The Scott-Stoffer motion put autism in the national political consciousness. The valian effort by Shawn Murphy was defeated on the votes but it continued that growth of political consciousness, and continued the momentum towards a true national political solution to Canada’s autism crisis.

The FEAT people intend to focus on ridings where the margin of victory in the last election was 2% or less and work on electing candidates with a commitment to autism. That looks like it will achieve some good results but it is not enough. Individual MP’s do not establish laws or otherwise govern in our party based parliamentary democracy. Parties, usually under tight Prime Ministerial direction, govern in Canada. That means the autism community must help elect parties that WILL introduce legislation to include ABA, and any other evidence based treatments for autism, in Canada’s national medicare coverage scheme. As Murphy, Munson, Stoffer and Scott all noted, that can be done in Canada’s cooperative form of federalism regardess of who has primary constitutional jurisdiction over Health care.

But our political history is clear on this subject. Medicare was an idea borne of the NDP (CCF) and was put into effect by the Liberals. More recently the Bloc Quebecois and Stephen Harper’s Neo-Con Conservatives all voted unanimously against including autism treatment in medicare. Any realistic national political strategy must acknowledge these realities. And we must be candid with the autism community and with Canadians. As a dad with an autistic son my party is the Autism Party which exists only in my mind and my heart, but guides my political actions. And it tells me that the best interests of autistic Canadians will be served by electing Liberals and NDP members of parliament so that one or either or both in a minority government situation, can actually pass legislation to include autism treatment coverage in Medicare. Let’s GET POLITICAL, let’s elect a government which will include autism treatment in Medicare so that autistic Canadians wherever they live will receive effective government funded autism treatment.

Thanks to Jim Young of FEAT-NS whose province hosted this event and the folks from FEAT-BC who have done so much for the cause of autism in Canada. Special thanks too, to the politicians with consciences, Andy Scott, Peter Stoffer, Shawn Murphy and Jim Munson, all of whom have made serious efforts to advance the cause of autism nationally.

May 27, 2007 Posted by | Andy Scott, FEAT BC, Jean Lewis, Jim Munson, Jim Young, national autism strategy, Peter Stoffer, Shawn Murphy, Stephen Harper | 1 Comment

FEAT-BC Goes Coastal, Salutes Autism Champions at Halifax Sat May 26, 2 to 5


FEAT-BC has been a leader in the autism struggle in Canada and now they are coming east to Halifax this Saturday May 26 from 2 to 5 at the Holiday Inn to salute four federal autism champions Andy Scott, Peter Stoffer, Shawn Murphy and Jim Munson, and to meet with Maritimers to discuss development of a national autism federal election strategy. Interested in autism? Then come on out!

“FEAT BC goes coastal” tour to Halifax

Vancouver, B.C. – Jean Lewis, founding director of FEAT-BC (Families for Early Autism Treatment of BC) today announced that she and other representatives of FEAT-BC will be travelling to Halifax on Saturday, May 26th for a gathering of parents of autistic children and their supporters from across the Maritimes.

“One purpose of this event is to recognize the leadership of MPs Shawn Murphy, Andy Scott, and Peter Stoffer, as well as that of Senator Jim Munson, in the fight to get Medicare coverage for autism now,” said Lewis. “These men have distinguished themselves among Canadian parliamentarians with their dedication to curtailing this emerging health care crisis. Parents of autistic children and supporters look forward to thanking them personally.”

The principal purpose of the gathering is to organize a team of FEAT activists for deployment during the upcoming federal election in select constituencies across the Maritimes.

On the way to Halifax, stops are planned in Ottawa and Toronto for meetings with Ontario-based parent activists.

At 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, May 24th, a news conference will be held in the Charles Lynch Press Room on Parliament Hill.

FEAT-BC (Families for Early Autism Treatment of BC) is a not-for-profit volunteer organization of parents and professionals working towards universal access to effective, science-based treatment for all Canadians diagnosed with autism in Canada.

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For further information, contact: Jean Lewis at jean.lewis@telus.net, or telephone 604-925-4401 or 604-290-5737.

May 23, 2007 Posted by | Andy Scott, autism, FEAT, Jim Munson, national autism strategy, Peter Stoffer, Shawn Murphy | Leave a comment

National Autism Rally – Saturday May 26 – Dartmouth NS




[L to R – Andy Scott, Jim Munson, Peter Stoffer, Shawn Murphy]

The Supreme Court has spoken folks – twice. In Auton and Deskin-Wyneberg the Supreme Court of Canada has made it crystal clear that the equality rights provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are of no help to famlies seeking government funding for treatment of their childrens’ autism. The SCC has left only one serous option to seek such remedy – the political arena. It is time to GET POLITICAL. FEAT-BC has been a Canadian leader in the fight for treatment for autistic Canadians and they will be at the Dartmouth Holiday Inn on Saturday May 26 to explain their national autism political strategy. Let’s join this effort and fight for treatment for autistic Canadians. And let’s say thank you to federal politicians who have fought for our autistic children – Andy Scott, Peter Stoffer, Shawn Murphy and Jim Munson. I hope to see you at the Holiday Inn. If you will attend please check out the registration info below and register before May 20.

An Invitation to join Families for Early Autism
Treatment of BC

(F.E.A.T. of BC) to say THANK YOU to:

Shawn Murphy, MP

Andy Scott, MP

Peter Stoffer, MP

Senator Jim Munson

For their dedication and commitment to improving the
lives of
Canadians affected by autism…

….AND….

To hear about F.E.A.T. of BC’s exciting plans to “go
coastal” with
our national political initiative to achieve universal
health care
coverage for EVERY Canadian affected by autism.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Holiday Inn, Harbourview

101 Wyse Rd.

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia,

B3A 1L9

2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

$25.00 per person – Refreshments will be served

Please make cheques payable to:

F.E.A.T. of BC, c/o Louise Witt, 2135 – 129th St., Surrey, BC, V4A 8H6

R.S.V.P. by May 20th. to Louise Witt, email: taylorwitt@shaw. ca or
call 604-538-1370.

For local enquiries: Luigi Rocca – luiroc@gmail. com 869-5444 (B) or
382-2239 (h)

May 13, 2007 Posted by | Andy Scott, autism disorder, FEAT BC, Jim Munson, national autism strategy, Peter Stoffer, Shawn Murphy | Leave a comment

Dear Prime Minister Harper – Autism and You; An Open Letter Asking You to Open Your Mind, Open Your Heart



Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Dear Prime Minister

I am writing to you as the father of a severely autistic 11 year old boy living in Fredericton, New Brunswick and as an autism advocate for the past 8 years here in New Brunswick. Recently I was disappointed, bitterly disappointed, by two actions by your very tightly controlled government – the rejection of MP Shawn Murphy’s motion to amend the Canada Health Act to ensure autistic children, wherever they reside in Canada, would receive government funded treatment for their autism. Canada as a nation has long ago rejected the notion that accidents of geography should determine whether Canadians receive life sustaining or life enhancing medical treatment.

The arguments about constitutional jurisdiction advanced in justification are specious and you sir, with all due respect, know that. Canada has long operated on the basis of a model of cooperative federalism which has developed many legislative tools to ensure that narrow constitutional boundaries do not impair the quality of life in this great country. I will mention no specific examples because there are far too many for this to be a serious issue of contention.

Autism is a serious neurological disorder borne by 1 in 150 Canadians by currently accepted estimates. It also impacts on the lives of parents, siblings, grandparents and other caregivers. There is no known cure but there is a widely acknowledged, evidence based treatment available, Applied Behavioural Analysis, or ABA, which is supported by literally hundreds of studies, including recent studies, which document the effectiveness of ABA in improving the IQ, the linguistic skills and comprehension, the ability to function in the real world, of children with autism. In my son’s case, even with the limited ABA therapy which was available in New Brunswick at the time because of a shortage of trained personnel, he has made tremendous gains. From a child who could only scream and tantrum he became a child who can communicate using words, who is reading, albeit at a level below his chronological age, and who in fact almost daily pulls out books on his own initiative to real aloud for his own enjoyment. This is the ABA which parents seek across Canada, the USA and the world for their autistic children.

There are those who oppose ABA based on personal preferences, outdated and ill founded misconceptions about what ABA involves and quite simply on the basis of paranoid, conspiratorial beliefs that somehow they as human beings, as functioning adults, will be deprived of their personalities if someone else’s autistic children are taught fundamental living skills by use of ABA. They make stretched and tortured arguments about ABA turning children into robots. This is nonsense as they happy joyful pictures of my son which I will provide a link for in this letter can rebut with finality. They also make disingenuous attacks on the studies which have documented ABA based gains for autistic children ignoring the fact that literally hundreds of such studies exist all showing substantial gains. Critics also focus on costs of providing ABA ignoring the studies that have shown the huge financial savings to government in reduction of service provision over the lives of autistic persons who have benefited from ABA.

I do not actually expect you to personally read this email Prime Minister. I hope though that a conscientious staffer or, through the marvel that is the internet, a family member or friend, will see fit to read this and implore you to take action on behalf of Canadians with autism. You can make a difference in the lives of 1 in 150 Canadians Prime Minister. You can make a difference in the lives of their loved ones and care givers and you can save Canadian governments enormous sums by reducing the level of services required as a result of early intensive ABA intervention.

Please open your mind Prime Minister, open your heart, and do the right thing.

Respectfully,

Harold L Doherty
Fredericton New Brunswick

May 9, 2007 Posted by | aba, Applied Behavioural Analysis, autism disorder, autism treatment, Canada Health Act, Shawn Murphy, Stephen Harper | 3 Comments

FEAT-BC Goes Coastal!!!


FEAT-BC is coming to Atlantic Canada.

FEAT and the families involved with FEAT have actively led the fight for autism treatment and services on the legal and political fronts in Canada. Atlantic Canadians with an autistic family member, autistic persons and persons with an interest in autism are encouraged to attend this event if at all possible.

This is huge folks. This is a great opportunity to thank political leaders like Shawn Murphy, Andy Scott, Peter Stoffer and Jim Munson who have cared; who have tried to help and are still trying to help persons with autism in Canada. Let’s greet the folks from BC and show them “the very best”. Lets thank Andy, Peter, Jim and Shawn. And let’s send a clear and strong message to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and federal Health Minister Tony Clement that their callous disregard for the health and well being of autistic Canadians will not go unchallenged.

I have already made my reservations at the Holiday Inn Dartmouth and I hope to see everyone there!!


“Families for Early Autism Treatment of BC Goes Coastal”

Vancouver……Ottawa……Toronto……Halifax

An Invitation to join Families for Early Autism Treatment of BC

(F.E.A.T. of BC) to say THANK YOU to:

Shawn Murphy, MP

Andy Scott, MP

Peter Stoffer, MP

Senator Jim Munson

For their dedication and commitment to improving the lives of
Canadians affected by autism…

….AND….

To hear about F.E.A.T. of BC’s exciting plans to “go coastal” with
our national political initiative to achieve universal health care
coverage for EVERY Canadian affected by autism.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Holiday Inn, Harbourview

101 Wyse Rd.

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia,

B3A 1L9

2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

$25.00 per person – Refreshments will be served

Please make cheques payable to:

F.E.A.T. of BC, c/o Louise Witt, 2135 – 129th St., Surrey, BC, V4A 8H6

R.S.V.P. by May 20th. to Louise Witt, email: taylorwitt@shaw. ca or
call 604-538-1370.

For local enquiries: Luigi Rocca – luiroc@gmail. com 506 869-5444 (B) or
506 382-2239 (h)

*Donations are needed and welcomed! All donations will be used to
assist in F.E.A.T.’s national political initiative to achieve our
goal – universal health care coverage for EVERY Canadian affected by
autism.

Cheques should be payable to F.E.A.T. of BC, c/o the above address.

“We owe it to these families, to society and ourselves to share not
only the burden of autism, but also the collective responsibility to
act.”

– Senator Jim Munson

“The access Canadian children with autism have to the treatment they
need sould not depend on how much money their parents have, nor in
which province they live.”

– Shawn Murphy, MP

“We have the opportunity to positively change the lives of thousands
of autistic children and their families and ensure these Canadians
will achieve their potential.”

Andy Scott, MP

“In a caring and progressive Canada, children with autism have a
right to health care.”

– Peter Stoffer, MP

May 6, 2007 Posted by | Andy Scott, autism awareness, autism disorder, Canada Health Act, FEAT BC, Halifax, Jim Munson, Peter Stoffer, Rally, Shawn Murphy | Leave a comment

Will Michael Lake, Harper’s Autism Front Man, Resign from Conservative Caucus?



March 21 2007

Michael Lake
MP, Edmonton

Dear Mr. Lake

As the parent of an 11 year old boy with Autism Disorder living in New Brunswick I was very disappointed in you, as the father of an autistic child, acting as a front man for the Harper government in the defeat of Charlottetown MP Shawn Murphy’s private member bill calling for amendments to the Canada Health Act. That bill would have ensured that autistic children would have received much needed ABA treatment regardless of where they live in Canada. Families would not have to move to your home province of Alberta to ensure receipt of services as they are now doing in significant numbers. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces, and other national organizations, with autistic children would not be turning down postings to New Brunswick as they are now doing.

As an autism parent you were of great use to Mr. Harper; you were on full display as the father of an autistic child in fighting AGAINST a measure that would have helped so many autistic children, regardless of where they lived in Canada. Of course if you were from one of the poorer provinces with little in the way of funded treatment for autism, rather than affluent Alberta with its well funded treatment, your role in the Conservative-Bloc Quebecois defeat of measures for autism could have been even more prominent.

As it was you claim to have stood on principle. You claimed that it was contrary to the provinces’ constitutional jurisdiction over health care for the federal government to help autistic children across Canada. That is why I am sure you are upset over the budget announcement by Finance Minister Flaherty that the Harper government would fund the creation of a Canadian Mental Health Commission. It must be very difficult for you, the autism dad who fought against a national autism strategy, in order to defend the sanctity of provincial jurisdiction over health care, to see your own party now turn on you and violate that principle by the creation of a Canadian Mental Health Commission.

Will you be resigning from the Conservative caucus to sit as an Independent?

Respectfully,

Harold L Doherty
Fredericton New Brunswick

March 21, 2007 Posted by | autism disorder, Canada Health Act, Mike Lake, Shawn Murphy, Stephen Harper | Leave a comment

Harper & Duceppe Defend Canada, Quebec Against Autistic Children


Above are pictures of Stephen Harper, who stood up for Canada yesterday, and Gilles Duceppe, who defended the Nation of Quebec yesterday, against the threat posed by autistic children in need of treatment by ordering their troops to vote down MP Shawn Murphy‘s private member’s motion calling for a National Autism Strategy. The motion sought amendment of the Canada Health Act to ensure that autistic children in Canada, no matter where they resided, would received funding for treatment. Congratulations to these two brave and compassionate leaders for fending off this horrendous challenge to the integrity of their respective nations.

February 22, 2007 Posted by | autism disorder, Bill C-304, Canada Health Act, Gilles Duceppe, national autism strategy, Quebec, Shawn Murphy, Stephen Harper | 3 Comments

Prime Minister Harper Let Your MP’s Vote FOR Autistic Children

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada

Dear Honourable Prime Minister

I have read the arguments by members of your party stating that provincial constitutional jurisdiction over health care precludes amendment of the Canada Health Act to require funding of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) for autistic children in each province in Canada, one of the provisions featured in Charlottetown MP Shawn Murphy’s private member’s motion. With respect Mr. Prime Minister the argument is a non starter. Such amendments would be no more, nor less constitutional, than the Canada Health Act itself. There is no question that the federal government could not by force of law alone require specific treatments in the provinces, even to address a debilitating disorder which is beyond the scope of many provinces. But the federal government can legislate requirements for provincial receipt of federal funding and a requirement to address treatment for one of societies most vulnerable groups of citizens – autistic children – should offend no court’s sensibilities. And it would not be unduly confrontational for the federal government to simply legislate that funding would be made available federally to each province which is prepared to provide costly, but effective, ABA treatment for autistic children.

The effectiveness of ABA as a treatment intervention for autism is backed quite literally by hundreds of studies and by the opinions of experts who actually work with autistic children including the experts who gave advice to the office of the US Surgeon General, state agencies in Maine, New York and California, and by the experts on the advisory board of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment. In the court proceedings in Auton the court’s decision to require provincial funding of ABA for autism was overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada but the experts at trial were in agreement that ABA is the treatment of choice for autism – there is no effective evidence based alternative.

Mr. Prime Minister you have spoken often of values. I ask you that you release MPs in your party to vote their consciences and vote based on their values in today’s expected vote on Mr. Shawn Murphy’s National Autism Strategy vote. You are the Prime Minister for all Canadians including autistic children. I ask that you act in accordance with your title as the Right Honourable Prime Minister of all Canadians, and do the Honourable thing for autistic children. Let your MP’s vote for them in accordance with their own values.

Respectfully,

Harold L Doherty
Fredericton NB

February 21, 2007 Posted by | aba, Applied Behavior Analysis, autism disorder, national autism strategy, Shawn Murphy, Stephen Harper | Leave a comment

Dear Conservative MP’s – Please Vote FOR Autistic Children

M. Allen, B. Casey, G. Keddy
P. Mackay,R. Moore, G. Thompson
F. Manning, L.Hearn

Dear Honourable Members of Parliament

As Conservative Members of Parliament you will probably be directed to vote NO to Charlottetown Liberal MP Shawn Murphy’s private member’s motion calling for a National Autism Strategy including amendments to the Canada Health Act to help ensure that, regardless of where they live in Canada, autistic children will have access to government funded early interventions which are evidence based and proven effective in dramatically improving their lives. Senior members of your party have indicated that constitutional jurisdiction precludes endorsing this proposal. With respect, I think you all know differently. Cooperative federalism has long ago rid this country of self imposed timidity in the face of challenges which although originating in fields within provincial jurisdiction reach across provincial boundaries and abilities limit all Canadians. Without cooperative federalism there would be no Canada Health Act to begin with and Atlantic Canada would look much different today and not for the better.

The truth is that 1 in 150 children in YOUR riding, based on Center for Disease Controls most recent estimates, have some form of autism spectrum disorder. Autism, despite movies about individuals who have accomplished great feats, is, for most persons with autism, a debilitating disorder marked by very limited communication skills, aggressive , even life threatening, self injurious behaviour and a life of institutional care. Many of the 1 in 150 children with autism disorder in your riding will be confronted by these realities.

I have a son with classic autism disorder who is described by his pediatrician as profoundly autistic but I choose to speak of some of these painful realities because I believe that his life and others like him can be improved dramatically by facing these realities and providing evidence based treatment and education. Hugs are good, but hugs are not enough. Kind words are appreciated but kind words work no miracles. Evidence based interventions, supported by literally hundreds of serious studies, will dramatically improve the lives of the autistic children in your riding. But such intervention is expensive and requires government funded assistance to ensure that all children receive this medically necessary help.

Although your party will undoubtedly instruct you to vote no, I ask you to vote your conscience on Shawn Murphy’s national autism strategy motion. Atlantic Canadian conservatives have historically shown both independence of thought and action and a keen social conscience. From Robert Stanfield to Richard Hatfield Atlantic conservatives have not been reluctant to help those who most needed help. I ask you to consider that tradition of social conscience and help the autistic children in your riding by voting YES to Shawn Murphy’s private member’s motion for a National Autism Strategy and amendments to the Canada Health Act.

Respectfully,

Harold L Doherty
Fredericton NB
Conor’s Dad

February 17, 2007 Posted by | Applied Behavior Analysis, autism, autism disorder, autism interventions, Canada Health Act, national autism strategy, Shawn Murphy | Leave a comment

Bill C-304 Shawn Murphy’s Autism Motion Debates

Debate continued yesterday on Charlottetown MP Shawn Murphy’s private member’s motion for a national autism strategy including amendment of the Canada Health Act to ensure government funded ABA treatment for autism across Canada. As expected the Conservatives who spoke hid behind provincial jurisdiction arguments to preclude a solid commitment to treating autism. I was surprised that an NDP speaker voiced some concern on that ground as well, given that Canada’s national health care scheme essentially originated with that party (CCF-NDP) and Tommy Douglas. Moncton MP Brian Murphy gave an excellent speech in support of the motion which was put over until February 21, 2007. It is clear though that with Conservative opposition as voiced yesterday, and Bloc Quebecois opposition, there is no hope for the motion to pass. I commend Shawn Murphy though for bringing this motion and raising autism awareness and Brian Murphy for his excellent speech in support of the motion. The debates yesterday from Hansard:

National Strategy for the Treatment of Autism Act

The House resumed from December 7, 2006, consideration of the motion that Bill C-304, An Act to provide for the development of a national strategy for the treatment of autism and to amend the Canada Health Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
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Mr. Rick Dykstra (St. Catharines, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, it has been a little while. I think I got about three minutes of my speech in prior to the break and it is good to get back into it.

The Canada Health Act discourages the application of extra billing or user charges through automatic dollar for dollar reductions or withholdings of federal cash contributions to a province or territory that permits such direct charges to patients.

Under the comprehensiveness criteria of the Canada Health Act, provincial and territorial health insurance plans must ensure coverage of all insured health care services. Insured health services under the act are defined as medically required or necessary physician services, hospital services, and surgical dental services when a hospital is required. In this way the Canada Health Act defines a minimum range of services to be insured on a national basis in our country.

Services provided by other health care providers outside a hospital are not considered to be insured health services under our act. That includes intensive behavioural therapy services for autism spectrum disorders since these services are generally provided outside of hospitals by non-physicians. These services are considered to be additional benefits and may be insured at the discretion of the province or territory, but that is their decision. They are not subject to the act’s provisions. However, there is nothing in the Canada Health Act that stops provinces and territories from providing these services on an insured basis if they so wish to.

The bill presented by my hon. colleague, if adopted, would affect the definition of insured services under the act. In short, that means if Bill C-304 were to be passed by this House, provinces and territories would be required to provide applied intervention therapy services on an insured basis to all their residents, in addition to hospital and physician services.

The purpose of the Canada Health Act is to ensure that Canadians have access to medically necessary hospital and physician services without financial or any other impediments.

Hospital services that are considered to be medically necessary are outlined in the act and include, among others, such services as nursing services, the use of operating rooms, and drugs administered in hospitals. Medically necessary physician services are agreed upon through consultations by members of the medical profession and provincial and territorial governments. They are then determined by physicians at the point of service.

Referring to specific services in the Canada Health Act would be incompatible with its overall structure and intent.

The Canada Health Act references “insured services” and “medical necessity” but does not define specific services for specific illnesses or conditions. This is critical to the act and it needs to be clearly understood within the context of this private member’s bill.

In provinces and territories there are mechanisms in place to examine the insured status of health services. Provincial and territorial ministries of health consult with members of the medical profession to determine which services are medically necessary and should be covered by their plans. Such consultations have proven to be an extremely effective method of insuring that Canadians receive appropriate medical care.

The second concern that this bill presents is with regard to the respective roles and responsibilities of the federal and provincial and territorial governments.

As we know, under the Canadian Constitution, the responsibility for matters related to the administration and delivery of health care services falls primarily under the jurisdiction of provincial and territorial governments. It is part of our Constitution and one that we must ultimately respect.

While we may not always agree, it is the responsibility of the provincial and territorial governments to set their priorities, administer their provincial health and social services budgets and manage their resources in the manner that best suits provincial and territorial needs while still upholding the principles that are in the Canada Health Act.

+ -(1825)

The federal government, for its part, by law, is responsible for the promotion and preservation of the health of all Canadians. It is appropriate, when describing federal responsibilities in health care, to note that the federal government cannot interfere in provincial-territorial responsibilities as defined under the terms of our Constitution, neither can we be seen as infringing upon those responsibilities.

Unfortunately, Bill C-304 attempts to require provinces and territories to provide behavioural treatment services for autism and to do so on an insured basis. As it is the provinces and territories that are responsible for matters dealing with the delivery of health services, the bill would be perceived as an unacceptable intrusion on provincial and territorial responsibilities across the country.

Amending the Canada Health Act would be viewed by the provinces as a unilateral imposition by the federal government and could potentially upset the longstanding federal, provincial and territorial relationship that we now have and that has been encouraged to develop and has developed the health care system that we as Canadians are truly proud of.

Clearly, the Canada Health Act is not the proper place to regulate matters such as behavioural therapy services which fall under provincial jurisdiction.

Finally, even if such an amendment were made to the Canada Health Act, it is not certain that it would actually achieve its objective. While the act places conditions on payments to the provinces and territories and can reduce or withhold transfers if these are not met, it cannot dictate to a province or territory how to run its health care plan, much less still how to run the institutions.

There is no question that individuals affected by autism spectrum disorders and their families may experience tremendous worry and significant financial and social implications. We are not here to debate that. That is why the government recently announced the package of new initiatives on autism spectrum disorders.

These initiatives are consistent with the federal roles and responsibilities in the health sector and there is no intrusion in provincial jurisdiction. The focus is on research, surveillance and information dissemination.

+ -(1830)
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Ms. Penny Priddy (Surrey North, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, the bill introduced by the member for Charlottetown has been troubling many of us who know people with autism and who have talked to the families of children and adults with autism. The member’s bill contains a number of factors that need to be considered.

We do know that for many parents of children, teenagers or adults with autism, it is an autism spectrum disorder. This is not something where when someone brings a baby home from the hospital, a physician can say that the child has autism. The diagnosis may be early or it may be at the age of three, at the age of five or it may only be when the child starts school. However, that is fairly unusual when we look at the kinds of disabilities that we see with children, teenagers and into adulthood.

What we do know is that we are seeing increasing numbers of children with autism and the federal government does have a role to play in consultation with parents.

I have talked to parents about the incredible frustration of finding supports for their child and then, once having found them, not being able to afford them or literally bankrupting families. When I say bankrupting, I mean they are selling their homes and their possessions to finance the treatments which, a good percentage of the time when initiated and administered early enough, are successful.

The other devastating thing for families is that the services are so displaced that families move from places they have lived all their lives, or their families before them, into perhaps an urban area because it is the only place they can find somebody who is trained in either Lovaas or intense behavioural intervention.

The lives of most families are emotionally, physically and financially disrupted and often bankrupted by these circumstances. The other thing we need to look at when we look at the supports for people with autism is that this is lifelong. Even when we can initiate support early, the individual will perhaps always require some kind of lifelong support. Those supports are not only for children aged 3, 5 and 12, they are also for teenagers. What happens after they leave high school? How do we support an adult who is at some stage in that autism spectrum disorder, perhaps at a stage where they need a significant amount of support in their adult lives?

I certainly do not disagree with what the previous member said about creating national standards for autism treatment, about the need for more research, actually an oversight mechanism to monitor what is becoming a crisis in many parts of our country, and that we need to provide increased funding for autism research, part of which has been spoken to by the federal government.

However, there is no question that families need financial support. They cannot afford all the things their children are going to need. However, I would question whether opening the Canada Health Act is the best way to do it. However, they should be covered medically for their expenses. They cannot afford it. We would not expect somebody whose child has spina bifida or some other kind of neurological disorder to cover the treatment expenses, nor should we be expecting these parents to cover the treatment expenses and ongoing expenses that their child, teenager and adult might incur.

+ -(1835)

I will be interested to hear the member speak more about how he believes opening up the Canada Health Act would actually make a difference and whether he has looked at other ways that individual provinces could provide that kind of service.

I want to see a national standard of treatment so that people do not need to move from Prince Edward Island to Alberta or from British Columbia to Alberta, which many people have done in order to receive support for their child with autism. In point of fact, some people who have worked with us in a previous government had to do exactly that with their young son. They moved from British Columbia to Alberta in order to receive the kind of treatment that their child needed.

We cannot have that because it is a piecemeal approach. We do not have a piecemeal approach with other neurological disorders. We do not have a piecemeal approach if one’s child, as I say, is born with spina bifida or some other kind of neurological damage or trauma. We do not tell them that this kind of surgery is only available in New Brunswick and not in Manitoba. We tell them that there is a reasonable standard across the country for the kind of support that they need.

Our goal is to have a national standard of treatment that is available to all parents of children, teens and adults with autism. I will be most interested to hear the mover of the motion speak more about all of the options he looked at in terms of funding and the availability of funding as he looked at opening up the Canada Health Act.

However, we absolutely support covering the expenses of those parents. They should not bankrupt themselves in order to provide for their child.
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Mr. Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough, CPC): previous intervention
Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to participate in the debate on Bill C-304.

The title of the bill is a national strategy for the treatment of autism act. However, what the title does not make clear is the fact that the bill is calling for an amendment to the Canada Health Act.

I will take this opportunity to address why the concerns raised by the hon. member should not be addressed under the Canada Health Act. Although the care for individuals with autism and their families is of great concern to the government, the Canada Health Act is, in my opinion, the wrong instrument to achieve this objective.

The Canada Health Act sets out the broad principles under which provincial plans are expected to operate. The act establishes certain criteria that provincial plans must meet in order to qualify for their full share of federal health transfer payments. Federal transfer payments may be reduced or withheld if a province does not meet the criteria and conditions of the act.

These criteria are the cornerstones of Canada’s health care system. They are as follows: reasonable access to medically required hospital and physician services, unimpeded by charges at the point of service or other barriers; comprehensive coverage for medically required services; universality of insured coverage for all provincial residents on equal terms and conditions; portability of benefits within Canada and abroad; and public administration of the health insurance plan on a non-profit basis.

In addition to the above criteria, the conditions of the act require that the provinces provide information as required by the federal minister and give appropriate recognition to federal contributions toward health care services in order to qualify for federal cash contributions.

The act also discourages the application of extra billing, or user charges, through automatic dollar for dollar reductions or withholding of federal cash contributions to a province or territory that permits such direct charges to patients. In fact, the fear that user charges and extra billing would erode accessibility to needed medical care was a major impetus in the development of the act.

The Canada Health Act was enacted to protect the fundamental principles of our publicly financed, comprehensive, portable and universally accessible health insurance system. I think everyone would agree that these are laudable objectives.

Our system of national health insurance, or Medicare as it is popularly known, is close to the hearts of Canadians and something too precious to tamper with. Canadians support the five principles of the Canada Health Act and feel that Medicare is a defining feature of Canada. Time and time again, polls demonstrate high support for Medicare.

If adopted, the amendments presented by my hon. colleague in this bill would affect the definition of insured services under the act. This means that if Bill C-304 is passed by the House, the provinces and territories will be required to provide, on an insured basis to all of their residents, behavioural therapy treatment for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. This is not the purpose of the Canada Health Act. I want to emphasize that the Canada Health Act was not meant to address issues such as behavioural treatment for autism spectrum disorder.

Introduced in 1984, the Canada Health Act brings together previous legislation, the Hospital Insurance and Diagnostic Services Act, 1957 and the Medical Care Act, 1966, to ensure that all Canadians have prepaid access to medically necessary hospital and physician services without financial or other barriers. The Canada Health Act references insured services and medical necessity, but does not define specific services for specific illnesses or conditions.

Insured health services under the Canada Health Act are defined as medically required/necessary physician services, hospital services and surgical dental services when a hospital is required. Hospital services considered to be medically necessary are outlined in the act and include, among others, such services as nursing, the use of operating rooms and drugs administered in hospitals.

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Services provided by other health care practitioners outside a hospital are not considered to be insured health services under the act. This includes intensive behavioural therapy services for autism spectrum disorder since these services are generally provided outside hospitals by non-physicians. These services are considered to be additional benefits and may be insured at the discretion of the province or territory. They are not subject to the act’s provisions.

The decision to provide services to individuals with autism spectrum disorder as part of a package of insured health services should be left to the provinces and territories. Each jurisdiction has mechanisms in place to examine the insured status of health services.

Provincial and territorial ministers of health consult with the members of the medical profession to determine which services are medically necessary and should be covered by their plans. They are then determined by physicians at the point of service.

Such consultations have proven to be an effective method of ensuring that Canadians receive appropriate medical care. Clearly, the Canada Health Act is not the proper place to regulate matters such as behavioural therapy services, which properly fall under the provincial jurisdiction and are better handled at that level.

We also have to recognize that even if the Canada Health Act were the appropriate place for such a provision, it probably would not achieve its objective. The act places conditions on payments to the provinces and territories and can reduce or withhold transfers if these are not met. It cannot dictate to a province or territory how to run its health care plan.

The federal government recognizes that the provinces and territories have the primary responsibility for the organization and delivery of health care services and that they require sufficient flexibility to operate and administer their health care insurance plans in accordance with their specific needs and situations.

To date, this approach has served us well and there does not see to be any reason to change it at this time. This is why the flexibility inherent in the Canada Health Act has always been one of its strengths. Since the enactment of the act in 1984, the federal government has always attempted to work with the provinces to make the act a viable piece of legislation. It could be dangerous to tamper with the provisions of the act when they have received such wholehearted support.

This does not mean the federal government has no interest in the issue of autism spectrum disorder. Quite the contrary. As demonstrated by the announcement on November 21 of the five new initiatives aimed at laying the foundation for a national strategy on autism spectrum disorder, Canada’s new government is clearly committed to helping individuals with autism and their families. However, while autism spectrum disorder and treatments for the disorder are serious concerns, the Canada Health Act is not the appropriate vehicle to address these issues.

The proposal put forward by my hon. colleague is commendable, however, I cannot support the bill. The proposed amendment is inconsistent with the purpose and intent of the Canada Health Act.

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[Translation]
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Mr. Brian Murphy (Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say a few words on Bill C-304, An Act to provide for the development of a national strategy for the treatment of autism and to amend the Canada Health Act.

First, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Charlottetown for the work done in this House on this bill.

[English]

Bill C-304 is a very important bill, as we can see from the debate on it, although a private member’s bill may well work toward defining and differentiating different parties views of who will be left behind and who will not.

I am very pleased to rise and offer my support to Bill C-304, as it provides a national strategy, in law, for the treatment of autism.

The bill incorporates three main provision.

First, we are asking the Minister of Health to convene a conference involving the ten provincial and territorial health ministers to discuss the important issue and begin crafting a national strategy for the treatment of autism.

Second, we are asking the Minister of Health to table a formal strategy for the treatment of autism before the end of 2007.

Third, the bill asks that the Canada Health Act be amended to include applied behaviour analysis, ABA, and intensive behavioural intervention, IBI, as medically necessary for required services.

These measures are considered provisions designed to address a very real health problem in our country, one that affects thousands of Canadian families, no less detrimental than the diagnosis of terminal cancer or any other maladies that affect Canadians in general.

Let me tell members about a real life situation in my province of New Brunswick. I know a couple who have three children. They are seven, five and three years old. The first two of these children were diagnosed with autism. One of the children did not speak until he was three and a half years old. He had been very aggressive and he had many odd self-stimulatory behaviours. The parents did not know how to cope with the problem. He was described by a pediatric neurologist as severely autistic. The second child appeared to be less severely autistic, but she did not learn to speak until she was three years old, did not interact with her peers and seemed withdrawn from the outside world.

When the diagnosis was made some time ago, the discussion centred around appropriate treatment. Unfortunately, ABA was just in its infancy with respect to recommended treatment in the province of New Brunswick. There was no funding available and no professional help available.

These two very fine people, Charlotte and Luigi Rocca, read books. She retired from her law practice and devoted herself to her two autistic children. Through ABA and the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years, the results are astounding. These two children, to use one example of their achievements, at the grade two level lead the class now in their reading skills in English. They are involved in soccer and tae kwan do, not exactly sports that require retreat from the madding crowd around us. They are two very well developed, normal children. However, this did not happen with the help of the New Brunswick medical care system or the Canadian national Health Act.

ASD is a complex of potentially devastating problem for parents such as the Roccas. It affects people’s ability to communicate, form relationships and interact with their environment. Within the spectrum there are specific diagnoses: pervasive development disorders, Rett syndrome, Asperger syndrome and child development disorder.

Symptoms can vary widely. Some who suffer from ASD are capable of leading normal, healthy, happy, productive lives. Many more, however, require extensive treatment to mitigate or compensate for unresponsive, uncommunicative and sometimes violent and self-destructive behaviour.

After a diagnosis, if children receive treatment early enough, typically before the age of six, and intensively enough, typically 30 to 40 hours per week, studies have shown that up to 50% can recover to the point of being indistinguishable from their peers. Even those who do not recover completely can show great improvement.

The debate is over. ABA and IBI treatments work. Both are designed to teach autism sufferers how to function in the world. When they are employed, the results can be dramatic and encouraging.

Until recently our understanding of both the incidence and special costs of autism was fairly primitive. However, the most recent, reliable information suggests that as many as one in 167 Canadian children suffer from some form of ASD.

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We also know there is no cure and that there are financial burdens borne by families mostly in this country. The treatments can be as high as $60,000 a year. It is an extraordinary load to ask average Canadian parents who are victimized by this disorder to carry for even a short period of time, but the evidence is clear that the money spent on the treatment is effective and we can do something about it by making it a national health question. What can parliamentarians do to help lighten the load? They can do as the hon. member for Charlottetown has done in proposing this bill.

The courts have already rejected the argument that governments share a responsibility to treat autism and there are other constitutional issues to consider. How far should the federal government go on a health issue that properly falls within provincial jurisdiction? This has been referred to by my colleagues. However, the member for Charlottetown and I believe that the House has a moral responsibility to do everything it can. Make no mistake, we can do a lot. The Canada Health Act comes from Parliament.

Currently, medicare does not provide for the treatment of autism. Without sufficient public health care coverage, families will continue to mortgage their homes, extend their lines of credit or even bankrupt themselves as they desperately search for ways to pay for the cost of treatment. Many who run out of options will simply have no choice but to select treatment on the basis of affordability rather than clinical need.

How is that different than an American system of medical care delivery? How is it different to say that if parents have money they can get ABA or IBI, the treatment necessary to make their children performing members and integrated into society. The treatment works. It is very expensive and it should be afforded under any national health care scheme.

The act is not asking that much. It is asking, first, that the Minister of Health convene his counterparts, the ministers of health throughout the provinces and territories. In my province of New Brunswick the minister of health is very open to this suggestion.

The second suggests that the Minister of Health, who may be well on the road to doing this, posits and strategizes a national strategy to combat autism. While this may have been done outside the confines of this place, we think the bill before us, presented by the hon. member for Charlottetown, is the appropriate way to ensure that it is done in a proper manner.

It is not fair, equal or just. Protecting all of the citizens of Canada from crippling illnesses that financially burden families unfairly and end up in treatment of maladies different throughout the provinces and different according to one’s means could not have been the vision of Tommy Douglas. This could not have been the vision of those who have modified the health acts across this country over the last 40 years.

Beyond this, there is a big difference in the availability of treatment across Canadian provinces, as we have just indicated. In Alberta, for example, children have full access. In Ontario, kids have access up to a certain age. In other provinces, such as in my province of New Brunswick, it is simply not available except perhaps through means tested social services or welfare programs.

Again I ask you, Mr. Speaker, and all members of the House: Is that fair, particularly when we have the Canada Health Act to help us develop new policies and programs that will benefit our most vulnerable citizens? Clearly, we must acknowledge that provincial health care plans are just that, provincial. We must respect the division of powers between federal and provincial levels of government, but that does not mean that we should abrogate our responsibility as parliamentarians within the constitutional framework.

Again, Bill C-304 is a noble effort to deliver a national health care strategy for the treatment of autism and to treat all Canadians afflicted by this in a fair and equal manner.

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Hon. Shawn Murphy (Charlottetown, Lib.): previous intervention
Mr. Speaker, as the previous speakers have indicated, this is an extremely important issue, and I would suggest it is a raging issue right across the country. The prevalence of autism is extremely high and seems to be rising. The cause remains unknown, but we all know that early diagnosis and intervention is so important.

Let us make it absolutely clear to everyone in this room and everyone watching these proceedings that this is a health issue. That train has left the station; no one in this House is prepared to debate that issue.

However, autism is not treated as a health issue. Many provinces treat autism in the social services envelope. It is subject to a means test; people are told they will get money if they do not have any money. It is not treated in the same way as other health issues, such as cancer and heart problems. It is totally inconsistent from one province to another province. In some provinces it is a small amount of money from the social services envelope. Other provinces have more progressive plans that provide ABA and IBI treatment. While they are not totally accepted, they are the generally accepted treatment modalities for this particular problem.

We are talking of what I classify as orphans in the health system. It cries out for a response from the federal government, but also from the provincial governments. I suggest the provincial governments would certainly be willing to talk to the federal government and come forward with a combined response.

Let me be absolutely clear that this will happen. Whether it happens with Bill C-304 or a future bill, it is going to happen.

If parliamentarians in the House of Commons are not prepared to deal with it, there is another body that will deal with it and that is the courts. Someone is going to bring it to court and the judge is going to ask, “Is it a health issue?” Yes. “Is this the accepted modality of treating the health issue?” Yes. Then that judge is going to say, “I am not prepared to discriminate between someone with this particular problem and someone with cancer”, and the judge will order the provinces to pay for it.

I would ask the members of this assembly to be bold and courageous and do the right thing. I urge them to pass this legislation before we are dragged into the courts kicking and screaming.

There will be people who will stand up, and some have already, and give all kinds of excuses. One member said earlier that it is a provincial issue. I find that somewhat hypocritical. It is a provincial issue, but the federal government has a responsibility.

Only about 40 minutes ago we passed a private member’s motion. The government members all stood up and voted for it. I will read the motion:

That, in the opinion of the House, the Minister of Health should continue to work collaboratively with Statistics Canada, the provincial and territorial cancer registries, and key stakeholders towards the ultimate goal of creating uniform national standards and guidelines for the surveillance of all malignant and benign brain tumours, including data collection, analysis and reporting.

That is a cancer issue. I would suggest that is a provincial issue if we accept the arguments of the members across. That is only an excuse.

I would suggest that the people of Canada are watching us on this particular issue. Just last week George Bush, who represents a country that does not have a public health system, passed a bill and voted a billion dollars on this particular issue. I would hope that we would not fall behind George Bush when dealing with this particular issue.

On this very important issue I urge everyone to do the right thing and support Bill C-304.

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The Deputy Speaker: previous intervention next intervention
The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Some hon. members: No.

The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Some hon. members: Yea.

The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.

Some hon. members: Nay.

The Deputy Speaker: In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

The Deputy Speaker: Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, February 21, 2007 immediately before the time provided for private members’ business.

February 15, 2007 Posted by | aba, Applied Behavior Analysis, autism, autism treatment, Brian Murphy, Canada Health Act, ibi, Shawn Murphy | Leave a comment